Camp celebrates 90th year

Perry-Mansfield alumni visit from across country


— Suzanne Hartung said she would recognize Princess Morris anywhere, even after 40 years.

"Even if I heard her voice behind me, I would know it was Princess," Hartung said. Morris is distinctive for her long, graceful neck. Her tall ballet body holds the same poise it did in 1959 when the two women danced together at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Hartung and Morris were back on the Perry-Mansfield campus this weekend, along with fellow 1959 alumna Theresa Brust, laughing about old times and celebrating the school's 90th anniversary.

"It's a real coincidence that we three are here together," Morris said.

Brust owns a summer home in Steamboat and credits Perry-Mansfield for bringing her to the valley. She owns a performing arts center in Carmel, Ind., but wanted a second home in the mountains.

"I needed to be in a place where there was dance," Brust said; the proximity to Perry-Mansfield made Steamboat a perfect choice.

Perry-Mansfield was the first place that Brust received "good" dance instruction. She had been taking lessons for years, but it wasn't until her time at the performing arts camp, she said, that her eyes were opened.

Brust, Hartung and Morris all studied dance in the summer of 1959 under late modern dance legend Harriet Ann Gray and noted ballet teacher Mary Claire Sale.

"We thrived under them," Brust said.

Sale was a former member of the New York City Ballet, Morris said. "She was so elegant."

In 1959, Morris came to Perry-Mansfield with seven other girls from her hometown dance studio in Lake Charles, La.

Morris spent her career as a dance professor, returning to Perry-Mansfield in 1966 as an instructor.

"I have a special place in my heart for Steamboat," Morris said. "I was here before the ski resort was built and I remember it as a cowboy town."

Morris visits every summer and tries to coordinate her stays with Perry-Mansfield's "Evening of Dance," which took place this weekend.

"This place keeps pulling up back," Morris said. "All over the country, I meet Perry-Mansfield alum. This place may not have been the start, but it was the spark to go further.

"It was great to be in a place that took the arts so seriously and all the while to be surrounded by natural beauty."

In Manhattan, dance studios are small because of the price of rent in the city.

Morris remembers the feeling of freedom she felt, standing at the bar doing plies and looking out at the mountains.

Both Morris' and Brust's daughters have followed in their footsteps as dancers. Morris' daughter attended Perry-Mansfield from 1995 to 1997.

"God willing, Perry-Mansfield will be around for the next generation of dancers," Morris said. "I hope it goes on forever."


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